Why is it important for American
Mensa to have more than 50,000 members?
50,000 is rather arbitrary but larger is better.
The more members we have, the more members are likely to turn out
at events (I think our percentage of active members is dropping,
but that just illustrates my point; we need a larger base to provide
the same number of active members).
Some have suggested that if we had, say, 10,000
members we would return to the atmosphere we had when we had 10,000
members in the early `70's. I don't think so. Society has changed,
and we have to change with it. The Internet has resulted in a practice
called "cocooning", where people sit at home and use their
computers to surf the net, chat, email, etc. rather than leave their
homes to find entertainment. I think this is why our percentage
of active members is dropping. We need to reach out to the younger,
more Internet-active prospects, and keep them once they've been
As a sidelight, we get three votes on the International
Board of Directors for the first 5,000 members, and one more vote
for every 5,000 over that. We get one National Representative (NatRep)
for every three votes or fraction thereof. Thus at 50,000 members
we get 12 votes on IBD and 4 NatReps; at 55,000 we'd get 13 votes
and another NatRep. But this is of minor importance.
I have never found it useful to set a numerical
goal as a basis for policy-making. Numbers are essential for evaluating
policies after the fact, but not as a priori objectives.
The goals of a society are qualitative. In the
case of Mensa, members come first and the goal is to provide satisfactions
that individuals cannot achieve in isolation. Growth of Mensa is
a source of satisfactions in at least two ways: economic
and "ecological." There is a fixed cost to running a society
regardless of how many members there be. Absorbing that cost over
a larger number of members reduces the cost per member and is the
key to lowering the dues for each member while maintaining services.
The other source of increased satisfaction is
essentially qualitative, although it connects with numbers. The
essence of Mensa is the opportunity for making connections among
its members. The more members, the greater the diversity and the
better the chances of making compatible and lasting connections.
Growth creates a "virtuous circle (or cycle)."
Numbers are measures, not goals. After the fact,
one can evaluate the wisdom of policies and the effectiveness of
performance by looking first at the retention rate and then at the
recruitment rate. God, of course and as always, is in the details,
but unless the overview is sound the details won't work for you.
Specific Question, Bakke:
In the past, you have voted to eliminate the print version of InterLoc.
Is this creating two classes of Mensa members, those with net access and
those without? Should it be that Internet access is a requirement for
Mensa local officers, who are the target audience of InterLoc?
I may have to reconsider that vote, the new editor has
done such a wonderful job. Ill note that email access has been a
requirement of AMC membership for about ten years, but we are far from
ready to make it a requirement for local officers. Everything Ive
seen says that about 15-20% of our members do not have Internet access.
To require it for local officers would more likely force those officers
out rather than force them to get it.
Rather than create two classes of members, I thought
we could have the office print and mail a few paper copies on request.
But given those percentages, wed either do a LOT of (expensive)
custom printing and mailing, or cut 15% from the subscriber list. I dont
think either is acceptable.
Specific Question, Rubin:
There have been several instances of people asking you questions about
your positions and receiving see the writings on my website
as a reply. How do you reconcile the educational aspect of being Chairman
with the fact that a number of Mensa members do not have and may not want
access to the Internet?
Yes, I frequently invite correspondents to visit my
website. I dont use the web exclusively (I can walk and chew gum).
I have written for Going Forward. I have established the M-Pol
list , which is minimally moderated by four other people, to provide
for open discussion of Mensa politics. I answer letters with letters and
discuss issues on the telephone. I use all media available to me and,
as AMC Chairman, would respect the reasonable expectations and preferences
of all members, and would use The Bulletin and InterLoc appropriately.
That I do A does not imply that I cannot or will not also do B.
There are compelling reasons for heavy (not exclusive)
reliance on a website.
Economy of time and effort.
- Integrity of discourse. Since the access is public
I cannot tell one story to one correspondent and a different one to
- Consistency of context. A question comes from
a person whose background I may not know. Since meaning depends on context,
I cannot be sure of the full meaning of the question or how the correspondent
will interpret my answer. By referring to my website, I hope to provide
the questioner with access to my context.
- Facility for the reader to dig deeper.
- I understand the web to be a preferred medium
for the younger members now joining Mensa who will benefit from learning
While all of us have quick, well-functioning minds,
each of us has a unique combination of skills, values, conceptions. Mensa
will work much better if we respect our differences. I would eschew making
demands, rules, or directives. Instead, I suggest that we both ask and
tell one another using whatever media we find convenient and economical.
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